Does hair grow back after chemotherapy?

August 14, 2015 Providence Health Team

One of the side effects of chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients is hair loss. Chemotherapy drugs thin the hair shaft or completely block hair cells from growing. When the hair root becomes fragile, existing hair falls out.

Chemotherapy drugs have different effects on different patients so it’s hard to predict whether you’ll lose your hair, where and how quickly. Some people only lose hair on their scalp while others also lose hair on their arms, legs, pubic area, eye brows and eye lashes. If hair loss is going to happen, it usually begins within 2-3 weeks after the start of the treatment and may continue over the next month.

During the period of hair loss, many patients choose to wear a wig to gain back some control over their appearance. Here are some tips about wearing wigs:

  • Get referrals from other cancer patients, hospitals or your local American Cancer Society chapter regarding wig stores or beauty salons that respect client confidentiality (ones that accept private consultations or have private areas to discuss client’s needs).
  • See a wig specialist before hair loss so that he/she can see the existing hair and find a close match
  • Wear the wig before actually losing hair to feel more comfortable with it.
  • Add hats, turbans or scarves to personalize.
  • Learn make-up techniques for lost eyebrows and eye lashes from beauty salons that are experienced at working with cancer patients.

Hair loss during chemotherapy is only temporary. The hair root will recover and hair will start to grow back even before treatment ends. It may take up to one year for a complete regrowth and hair may reappear differently (different color or texture).

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